More often than not, when we are engaged to help an organization set up a PMO, executive managers have already committed to the idea of a Project Management Office.
They understand the benefits and services that a PMO will provide. They see the strategic value inherent in the work the PMO does. They know that standardization across the way projects deliver, and the ability to prioritize work more effectively, are top priorities for operating in a complex and fast-moving environment.
The challenge is getting the support of the project deliver community: people who work on projects day to day and the teams they work with. It’s other departments, other team managers and people who have to change the way they work to align with the PMO that are the people whose support you need to secure.
This means that a lot of stakeholder engagement needs to target those audiences. Yes, you can still benefit from managing up and ensuring that your executives stay on board. But the people who will make or break the success of the PMO are those teams the PMO will work alongside day to day.
The Easiest Way to Create Buy In
The simplest way to start creating buy in is for the most senior person involved in the PMO set up to issue a communication to everyone else.
This could be an email blast, a paragraph in the staff magazine, or a spot at a Town Hall style meeting. They should address why the PMO is being created, how it will work and what is expected of teams moving forward. In particular, stress the benefits for project teams.
While this might be the easiest way to get started, it’s not going to have a positive effect on everyone. You’ll always sway some people through this type of communication. And then when they receive follow up information, you’ll know it won’t be the first time they are hearing about the PMO.
A communication far and wide will set the tone for the PMO and the expectation that it will happen, and that teams will comply with any changes in working practice.
However, alone, this is no way near enough engagement to drive the successful adoption of a PMO.
Resistance to Change
It is human nature to be resistant to change, especially if you aren’t exactly sure what the change is. You might know what the changes are for – more consistent project delivery and so on – but you aren’t clear what it means for you.
Take some time to talk to the departments affected by the introduction of the PMO and find out what their concerns are.
Common concerns include:
- They are too busy doing their project work to take notice of new processes or to attend training; they don’t feel that they can justify the time to learn new ways of doing things
- They feel their current processes and methods are good enough and don’t need to be reviewed
- They feel the PMO will provide a level of oversight that makes them uncomfortable. This is particularly common in organizations where there has been little structure and project managers have been left to work however they feel appropriate
- They feel the decision to implement a PMO was taken without theirinput and they are upset or angry at not having been consulted
- They feel the PMO team don’t know their area of the business and won’t be able to support them adequately.
You may also come across departments who have set up their own PMO and who don’t see the need for another, or who simply don’t like the idea of a PMO at all as it represents an overhead. This can be a particular concern for revenue-generating teams who see a non-profit making department as a drain on the value they bring to the business.
Concerns vary widely, and you can uncover them by listening to what is said, and what is not said.
Dealing with Resistance to Change
There’s no single fail-proof method for creating buy in for any change activity – and setting up a PMO is definitely a change. However, there are tried and tested approaches that you can use when the situation demands it. Here are some you can choose from.
We’ve already touched on this above. Spend as much time listening to the challenges the department or individual is facing and how they feel about the upcoming changes. This will give you valuable insights – perhaps the PMO can resolve some of their challenges. Showing willing to understand is a good step forward for building successful working relationships.
Best for: When you first meet new teams.
Talk to people about the role of the PMO and your vision for it. Explain the objectives. Discuss the rationale for having one in the first place. This is the bigger picture conversation. If you can help the organization meet its strategic objectives and save money through more consistent project delivery, everyone wins.
Best for: Winning broad support for the idea of a PMO
Look at where there are already best practices in operation. Take these and roll them out more widely. Don’t reinvent new templates where a team already has one that will do. If someone has a great process for project initiation, use that. Be pragmatic.
Best for: Showing you are prepared to work with people instead of implementing ‘top down’ processes.
Build trust by giving trust. Don’t micromanage people. Set reasonable expectations on both sides and then deliver. You can only deliver on the promises you make, but as people see that you are keeping your side of the bargain, they’ll be inclined to show that they can do the same. Trust your team to do the right thing. Empower people with the tools they need to do their best work and then let them get on with it.
Best for: Showing you can create governance and oversight without bureaucracy.
You need to work at maintaining buy in over the longer term, but taking action early will make this easier for you. People judge by what they see and how they feel. Show them good work, and make them feel appreciated and listened to. That will go a long way to building effective working relationships and gaining buy in for the PMO.